The Colts thought they were set for the foreseeable future under center with former #1 overall pick Andrew Luck, who made three Pro Bowls in his first five seasons in the league from 2012-2016. However, Luck missed all of 2017 with injury and, while he returned in 2018 to make another Pro Bowl and win Comeback Player of the Year, Luck opted to retire after the 2018 season at the age of just 29, citing years of nagging injuries. That led to a quarterback carousel that has seen the Colts start a different quarterback week 1 every season, dating back to Luck’s missed season in 2017.
Luck was first replaced by backup Jacoby Brissett in 2019, but he proved to be a low upside option and was replaced by aging future Hall of Famer Philip Rivers, who played well enough in 2020 to make the post-season, but the Colts didn’t make any noise once they were there and Rivers hung them up after his lone season with Indianapolis. The Colts then traded a first and third round pick to the Eagles last off-season for Carson Wentz, a reclamation project who the Colts thought could discover his old form, reunited with former Eagles offensive coordinator and current Colts head coach Frank Reich.
Wentz was better in 2021 than he was in his final season in Philadelphia, when he finished as PFF’s 34th ranked quarterback out of 42 eligible, but Wentz still only finished 23rd out of 39 eligible quarterbacks and was a limiting factor that kept one of the best rushing teams in the league out of the post-season. The Colts also paid Wentz 21.3 million for 2021, in addition to giving up a first and third round draft pick, so they clearly overpaid for a year of middling at best quarterback play.
Fortunately, the Colts were able to play the quarterback market perfectly this off-season, taking advantage of unprecedented movement at the quarterback position. They traded Wentz at the very beginning of the off-season, getting back a pair of third round picks for him from Washington, who also took on the rest of his contract, and then they waited out the quarterback market to get Matt Ryan from the Falcons for just a single third round pick.
Not only did the Colts secure an extra third round pick in the exchange, helping them recoup draft capital from their original trade for Wentz, but the Colts also got an upgrade at the quarterback position, at a salary lower monetary cost (28.3 million to due Wentz in 2022 vs. 24.7 million for Ryan). Ryan is quite a bit older, going into his age 37 season, and he’s shown some decline in recent years, but he has still been at least a solid starting quarterback.
Over the past three seasons, Ryan has completed 66.0% of his passes for an average of 7.22 YPA, 72 touchdowns, and 37 interceptions, while finishing 18th, 11th, and 16th among quarterbacks on PFF, which is solid play, but it’s also a pretty noticeable drop off for a quarterback who finished in the top-10 among quarterbacks on PFF in 9 of his first 11 seasons in the league prior to the last three seasons. It’s always possible his play completely falls off at his age, but he should have a good chance to remain at least a solid starter, similar to Rivers in 2020. The Colts did well to maneuver to get Ryan as a replacement for Wentz under center this off-season, picking up an extra third round pick in the process.
The Colts also added veteran backup Nick Foles, reuniting him with Frank Reich, with whom he won a Super Bowl in Philadelphia. Reuniting Wentz with Reich might not have saved his career or brought back his old form, but it did get better play out of him and it could conceivably do the same for Foles, who has completed 65.3% of his passes for an average of just 6.12 YPA, 14 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions in 12 starts in three seasons since leaving the Eagles. Foles is now going into his age 33 season, but he does give the Colts some upside as a backup, given how well he’s played in certain stretches of his career. Ryan is rarely out of the lineup (3 games missed in 14 seasons in the league), but if he does miss time, Foles could perform well in his absence for a few games.
As I mentioned, the Colts had a dominant running game last season, ranking second in the NFL with 5.09 YPC and second in the NFL with 2,540 total rushing yards. The vast majority of that production came from feature back Jonathan Taylor, who led the NFL with 1,811 rushing yards (Nick Chubb was 2nd with 1,259) and 18 rushing touchdowns (no one else had more than 15) on 332 carries (Najee Harris was 2nd with 307).
Taylor’s 5.45 YPC average was among the best in the NFL and the advanced metrics loved his performance as well, as he ranked third with 3.83 yards per carry average contract, led the league with 66 broken tackles, and ranked 13th with a 56% carry success rate, while also leading the league with 23 carries of 15 yards per more. This comes after a rookie season where the 2020 2nd round pick rushed for 1,169 yards and 11 touchdowns on 232 carries (5.04 YPC) and finished as PFF’s 6th ranked running back.
Unfortunately, Taylor plays a position where it’s very hard to dominate like that two years in a row. In fact, there is almost no history of a running back producing like Taylor did last season and then repeating it the following season. Of the 23 running backs ever to rush for more than 1,700 yards in a season, only 7 of them ever surpassed that total again in their career, only one of them repeated it a third time, only 3 surpassed that total again the following season, and only 2 improved their rushing total the following season.
In total those 23 running backs rushed for an average of 1,872 yards on 367 carries (5.10 YPC) and 15 touchdowns in 30 total seasons with more than 1,700 rushing yards, but the following season, they saw their YPC fall by 13.9%, their carries fall by 24.3%, their rushing yards fall by 35.0%, and their rushing touchdowns fall by a whopping 41.8%. Applying those percentages to Taylor’s 2021 production gets 1,178 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns on 251 carries (4.69 YPC), which are still good numbers, and Taylor’s youth, only going into his age 23 season and his third year in the league, gives him a better shot to exceed those numbers than if Taylor were in the middle of his career, but it would still be a surprise to see him be quite as good as he was last season again. He should remain one of the best running backs in the NFL, but if he’s only good, instead of incredible, that will have a noticeable effect on this offense.
Taylor is unspectacular in the passing game, with a 1.32 yards per route run average in his career, and Nyheim Hines frequently spells him in obvious passing situations, a role he has thrived in throughout his 4 seasons in the league, averaging a 52/378/2 slash line per 16 games and a 1.48 yards per route run average, including 1.69 yards per route run over the past two seasons combined. Hines also averages about 70.5 carries per season and should see a similar total in 2022, even though he’s been pretty ineffective overall, with a 4.15 YPC average.
The Colts took a flyer on veteran free agent Phillip Lindsay this off-season and he could also compete for carries. Undrafted in 2018, Lindsay burst onto the scene with back-to-back thousand year seasons with the Broncos to begin his career, totaling 2,048 yards and 16 touchdowns on 416 carries (4.92 YPC) combined across the two seasons, but he’s completely fallen off since, totaling just 751 yards and 2 touchdowns on 206 carries (3.65 YPC) as a member of three different teams over the past two seasons.
Lindsay is somewhat young still, only in his age 28 season, but he’s undersized at 5-8 190 and has not shown the same burst over the past two seasons. He could prove to be a worthwhile flyer and compete to be the #2 back on this offense, but he could also just as easily end up off the final roster. He doesn’t show much in the passing game either, with a career 0.95 yards per route run average. This is a deep backfield and it’s also led by one of the top running backs in the league.
Another thing that should hurt the Colts’ running game, and their offense as a whole, is their declining offensive line. From 2018-2020, the Colts had probably the best offensive line in the NFL and they had rare continuity, with the same starters in all three seasons and no significant injury absences. However, the cracks started to show last off-season when long-time left tackle Anthony Castonzo retired and, while he was replaced by veteran Eric Fisher, he was a downgrade and he is also now no longer with the team, with no clear replacement being added. Also gone now is right guard Mark Glowinski, who signed with the Giants this off-season and also was not replaced in any sort of meaningful way. The rest of the group remains, but the Colts have clear weak spots at left tackle and right guard now.
Career backup Matt Pryor will likely take over one starting spot. The 2018 6th round pick has made 15 career starts with the Eagles and Colts in four seasons in the league, 2 at left tackle, 7 at right guard, and 6 at right tackle and he has shown some promise, but he is a projection to a season long starting role and could easily struggle. The Colts signed veteran journeyman Dennis Kelly this off-season and he’s mostly been solid in his career when counted on to play, but he’s mostly played on the right side in his career, with 36 career starts at right tackle, 11 at left tackle, and 4 at right guard, and he’s going into his age 32 season, so he would be a shaky season-long starting option as well.
The Colts also used a 3rd round pick on Central Michigan’s Bernhard Raimann, a versatile offensive line prospect who could earn a starting role somewhere by the end of the season. Also in the mix for playing time are a pair of recent draftees, 2020 5th round pick Danny Pinter and 2021 7th round pick Will Fries. Pinter has shown some promise in two years in the league, but he is still very unproven with just 329 career snaps played and he’s mostly seen action at center, while Fries played just 22 snaps as a rookie and did nothing to suggest he profiles as a long-term starter. Whoever wins the starting left tackle and right guard jobs will likely be a liability for the Colts’ offensive line.
The good news for the Colts’ offensive line is they have a good chance to get better play from left guard Quenton Nelson and center Ryan Kelly, who both dealt with injuries for much of last season and, as a result, they struggled by their standards. Kelly only missed three games, but struggled when on the field, finishing 34th out of 41 eligible centers on PFF, after the 2016 1st round pick finished in the top-14 at his position of PFF in each of the previous three seasons. Going into his age 29 season, Kelly could bounce back, but durability has been a concern for him throughout his career, as he’s missed 17 games in 6 seasons and has been limited in several others.
Nelson, meanwhile, missed four games, but also did not look anywhere near his top form when on the field. He still finished 26th among guards on PFF, but that was a steep drop off for a player who finished 5th, 2nd, and 4th in the first three seasons of his career from 2018-2020. Nelson had never missed a game prior to last season and is only in his age 26 season, so he has obvious bounce back potential. Thus far in his career, only injuries have kept the 2018 6th overall pick from being one of the top offensive linemen in the entire NFL.
Right tackle Braden Smith was also selected in the 2018 NFL Draft, 37th overall at the top of the second round, and he has also developed into one of the best players in the league at his position. Smith missed six games last season, but played at his top level when on the field, finishing 16th among offensive tackles on PFF, after finishing 29th, 9th, and 17th in the first three seasons of his career respectively. He hasn’t always been the most durable player, missing time in three of four seasons in the league, but he has a good chance to play more than the 11 games he played last season. The Colts will need Kelly, Nelson, and Smith to be at their healthiest and best to compensate for their weaknesses at left tackle and right guard.
The Colts’ receiving corps was a weakness last season, with Michael Pittman topping 1000 yards receiving, but their 2nd leading receiver finishing with a 38/384/3 slash line and no other wide receivers averaging more than 1.50 yards per route run. Their second leading receiver was Zach Pascal, who averaged just 0.78 yards per route run. Pascal is no longer with the team, which should be addition by subtraction, and the Colts have also yet to retain TY Hilton, who still had a decent 1.48 yards per route run average last season, but missed 7 games with injury and now heads into his age 33 season.
The Colts could still opt to bring Hilton back for what would be his 11th season with the Colts, assuming he even wants to play, after reportedly flirting with retirement for much of the off-season, but, for now, the Colts are going with a youth movement at wide receiver. Pittman will return as the #1 receiver and the 2020 2nd round pick is still only in his 3rd season in the league, while 2nd round rookie Alec Pierce and inexperienced 2019 2nd round pick Parris Campbell are expected to be the other starters in three wide receiver sets.
Pierce comes with a lot of upside, but could be overmatched in a large role in year one, while Campbell’s inexperience comes primarily as a result of injuries, which have limited him to just 436 snaps in 15 games in three seasons in the league, making him a complete wild card in terms of what he can contribute in his 4th season in the league. The Colts also lack depth at the position, with their top reserve options being Keke Coutee, Ashton Dulin, and Dezmon Patmon.
Coutee has shown promise with 1.49 yards per route run in his career, but the 5-11 180 pounder is a slot only option and played just 33 snaps for the Colts last season after the Texans made him a final cut last off-season, following three injury plagued seasons in Houston (25 of a possible 48 games missed). Dulin and Patmon, meanwhile, have shown very little in limited action since joining the Colts as a 2019 undrafted free agent and a 2020 6th round pick respectively.
Given the state of the rest of the Colts wide receiver group, the Colts will once again rely heavily on Pittman, who ranked 16th in the NFL last season with 129 targets and took them for a 88/1082/6 slash line, while averaging 1.95 yards per route run and finishing as PFF’s 21st ranked wide receiver. Pittman was not an elite #1 receiver and is still a one-year wonder, after averaging just 1.37 yards per route run in a limited role as a rookie, but he also has the talent and the potential get better going forward and could easily develop into a #1 caliber wide receiver for years to come. The Colts will have to hope he can do so again this season, given their other options, and they are probably expecting him to take another step forward, with another year under his belt and a likely upgrade under center.
The Colts’ also didn’t get much out of their tight ends last season. Mo Alie-Cox led the way with a 24/316/4 slash line and a 1.28 yards per route run average, while splitting playing time with Jack Doyle, who finished with a 29/302/3 slash line and a 1.14 yards per route run average, Doyle retired this off-season, ahead of what would have been his age 32 season, and the Colts will turn to some young players to replace him.
Kylen Granson played 227 snaps as the third tight end last season and, while he was underwhelming in his limited action, the 2021 4th round pick still has the upside to be better going forward. The Colts also used 3rd and 6th round picks on tight ends in this year’s draft, first taking Virginia’s Jelani Woods and then taking Youngstown State’s Andrew Ogletree. They’ll likely open the season as the 3rd and 4th tight ends, but they have the potential to carve out a role by the end of the season, with Woods being the more likely of the two to develop, due to his higher draft status.
With young, inexperienced players behind him on the depth chart, Mo Alie-Cox will continue to have a big role. Undrafted in 2017, Alie-Cox showed potential early in his career, averaging 1.88 yards per route run through the 2020 season, albeit in limited action. He couldn’t continue that into a larger role in 2021, but he wasn’t bad as a receiver and he had his best year as a blocker. Now going into his age 29 season, he probably doesn’t have any untapped upside, but has a good chance to be at least a capable starter. This looks like an underwhelming receiving corps again, one that will be very reliant on Michael Pittman again, but they at least have some young players with some upside and it wouldn’t be hard for this group to be better than a year ago, at least by default.
The Colts made a rare player-for-player trade with no draft compensation involved this off-season, swapping cornerback Rock Ya-Sin for Raiders edge defender Yannick Ngakoue. Ya-Sin was a promising young cornerback, earning an above average grade from PFF on 592 snaps in 13 games last season, and was set to make just 2.54 million for his age 26 season in 2022, the final year of his rookie deal, while Ngakoue is set to make a considerable amount more, owed 13 million in the final year of a 2-year, 26 million dollar deal he signed with the Raiders last off-season, so he’ll have to make significantly more impact than Ya-Sin would have and I’m not sure he will.
Ngakoue is still relatively young, in his age 27 season, and has fared well as a pass rusher in recent years, totaling 47.5 sacks, 68 hits, and a 11.8% pressure rate in 79 games over the past five seasons combined, but his run defense is horrendous and it’s concerning that he’s now on his 5th team (Jaguars, Vikings, Ravens, Raiders, and Colts) in three years, moving for the third time by trade. Last season was his worst season against the run, when he finished dead last among edge defenders on PFF in run grade, likely a big part of the reason why the Raiders moved on from him for the more well-rounded Chandler Jones, who wasn’t even that much more expensive (51 million over 3 years).
Ngakoue should remain an effective pass rusher, but his run defense will hurt the Colts and he’s not nearly as good of a value as Ya-Sin would have been in the final year of his rookie deal. The Colts also have already committed a lot of draft capital to the edge defender position in recent years, most recently using their first two draft picks in 2021 on Kwity Paye and Dayo Odeyingbo, so adding someone like Ngakoue at a high salary didn’t seem necessary.
Odeyingbo didn’t make his debut until week 8 because he was coming off of a torn achilles, but he could have been a first round pick if he was healthy during the draft and, even though he only was about average on 173 snaps as a rookie, he has the upside to be a lot better in year two, now another year removed from his injury. Paye, meanwhile, played 638 snaps as a rookie and held up pretty well, finishing in the 68th percentile among edge defenders on PFF. Like Odeyingbo, he also has a good chance to take a step forward in year two. Odeyingbo is the bigger of the two edge defenders and somewhat frequently lined up on the interior in passing situations, something he could continue to do in 2022.
The Colts also brought back 2018 2nd round pick Tyquan Lewis on a 1-year, 2.545 million dollar deal and he also has played a hybrid edge/interior role in the past for the Colts. Lewis hasn’t shown much overall since being drafted high, never topping 415 snaps in a season and totaling just a 8.9% pressure rate for his career, which is why he had to settle for a cheap one-year deal back with the Colts as a free agent, but he was in the middle of the best year of his career last season before a knee injury ended it after 311 snaps in 8 games, with 2.5 sacks, 3 hits, and a 10.4% pressure rate, while playing well against the run.
There’s no guarantee Lewis can keep that up over a full season, but he probably won’t have as big of a role with Ngakoue coming in and Odeyingbo expected to be healthy, and he has a good chance to be a useful rotational player. Lewis’ injury last season more or less coincided with Odeyingbo’s return, so the Colts didn’t have both available at the same time much last season. Both could continue seeing action on the interior in passing situations in 2022, as the Colts are not as deep at that position as they are on the edge.
The Colts also have 2019 2nd round pick Ben Banogu as an option on the edge, but he hasn’t shown much of anything in three years in the league and is competing for a roster spot more than anything, after playing just 440 snaps in 3 seasons in the league and averaging just a 8.9% pressure rate, while struggling as a run defender as well. Even if he makes the final roster, he’s unlikely to see much action in a deep position group, albeit one that lacks an established every down player, with Ngakoue being a huge liability against the run and Paye and Odeyingbo only being in their second years in the league and yet to break out.
As I mentioned, the Colts are thin at the interior defender position and they’ll be even thinner with key reserve Taylor Stallworth (331 snaps in 2021) now in Kansas City. The Colts used 5th and 6th round picks on Cincinnati’s Curtis Brooks and Missouri State’s Eric Johnson and it’s possible one or both have to play significant roles in year one, but both would likely be overmatched if they did. The Colts signed RJ McIntosh this off-season, but the 2018 5th round pick hasn’t played a snap in two seasons, after playing 179 nondescript snaps across the first two seasons in the league in 2018-2019.
Without established depth on the interior, it’s not hard to see how the Colts could use Dayo Odeyingbo and Tyquan Lewis on the interior regularly. DeForest Buckner and Grover Stewart both return as the starters and both will likely have to play big snap counts again, after playing 843 snaps (7th in the NFL among interior defenders) and 643 snaps respectively last season. Both played well on those big snap counts too, finishing 23rd and 20th respectively among interior defenders on PFF.
For Buckner, last year’s performance was nothing new and, in fact, was something of a down year by his standards, as he finished with his worst grade from PFF since his rookie season in 2016. Still in the prime of his career in his age 28 season, Buckner was PFF’s 4th ranked interior defender as recently as 2020, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if he was closer to that level in 2022, as compared to his 23rd ranked finish in 2021. Also a talented run defender, Buckner has totaled 45 sacks, 81 hits, and a 9.8% pressure rate as almost exclusively an interior defender in 95 games in his career, while missing just two games total and averaging 54.0 snaps per game.
Stewart, on the other hand, had a career best season in 2021. The 2017 4th round pick was also solid on snap counts of 627 and 581 respectively in 2019 and 2020 and has essentially gotten better in every season of his career. The 6-4 333 entered the league as purely a situational run stuffer and he’s still at his best against the run, but has developed into a capable pass rusher as well, with a 6.3% pressure rate over the past three seasons. He might not repeat the best season of his career in 2022, but he’s still only in his age 29 season and I see no reason he wouldn’t at least be a solid starter, while playing a similar snap count to the past three seasons. He and Buckner remain as a talented starting duo at a position with questionable depth.
Along with DeForest Buckner, the Colts’ other top defensive player is off ball linebacker Darius Leonard, who has been one of the best players in the league at his position since he entered the league as a 2nd round pick in 2018, finishing in the top-10 among off ball linebackers on PFF in all four seasons, while playing 58 of 65 games and averaging 62.2 snaps per game as a true every down linebacker. The Colts locked him up on a 5-year, 98.5 million dollar extension last off-season ahead of what would have been the final year of his rookie deal, making him the highest paid off ball linebacker in the league, and he’s still worth every penny, even at that place. Only in his age 27 season, without a serious injury history, there’s no reason to expect any drop off from Leonard any time soon.
Bobby Okereke also played an every down role in this linebacking corps last season, playing the 7th most snaps in the NFL by an off ball linebacker with 1,072, and, while he obviously wasn’t as good as Leonard, he held up pretty well in his big role, finishing in the 57th percentile among off ball linebackers on PFF. A 3rd round pick in 2019, Okereke has only been an every down player for one season, but he flashed in limited action as a part-time player in the first two seasons of his career and he could easily remain a solid player in 2022 and beyond, still only in his age 26 season.
EJ Speed, a 2019 5th round pick, and Zaire Franklin, a 2018 7th round pick, return to reserve roles, after playing 146 snaps and 201 snaps respectively last season. Both players are very inexperienced and would be a big question mark if forced into larger roles, as last season’s small snap totals were actually the highest of their careers for a single season. Leonard and Okereke are one of the better linebacker duos in the league, but the Colts’ depth is questionable.
The Colts opted not to retain cornerback Xavier Rhodes this off-season, which was understandable, as he was going into his age 32 season and coming off of a season in which he was mediocre in 13 starts. Rock Ya-Sin would have been an obvious candidate to take on a larger role in Rhodes’ absence, but he was sent to the Raiders in the Ngakoue trade, so the Colts had to give out a big contract in free agency to add a cornerback, giving Stephon Gilmore a 2-year, 20 million dollar deal, in addition to having to pay significant money for Ngakoue himself. That is money that could have been spent on other parts of the roster.
Gilmore is also heading into his age 32 season, but he’s coming off of a much better season than Rhodes and has a much higher ceiling. Gilmore was probably the best cornerback in the NFL from 2018-2019, finishing 1st and 6th among cornerbacks on PFF in those two seasons respectively, winning a Super Bowl and a Defensive Player of the Year award with the Patriots, and he still showed a high level of ability last season, when he finished as PFF’s 14th ranked cornerback with the Panthers. However, he played just 304 snaps and, in total, injuries have cost him 14 of a possible 33 games over the past two seasons. Given his age and recent injury history, it’s likely his best days are behind him and he could easily decline further or miss more time with injury in 2022. He comes with a lot of upside, but significant downside as well.
Gilmore will be the Colts’ top outside cornerback, while Kenny Moore will remain their top slot cornerback. Moore had a down year by his standards in 2021, but still earned a slightly above average grade from PFF, his 4th straight season as a starter in which he’s earned an above average grade from PFF (56 starts in 59 games), with his best year coming when he finished as PFF’s 15th ranked cornerback, just two seasons ago in 2020. Not only a slot cornerback, Moore can also hold up outside, despite being just 5-9 190. Still only going into his age 27 season, Moore should remain an above average cornerback again in 2022, playing both outside in base packages and on the slot in sub packages.
Isaiah Rodgers will likely be the third cornerback, playing outside opposite Gilmore in sub packages when Moore moves to the slot. A 6th round pick in 2020, Rodgers has shown a lot of promise in 576 snaps in two seasons in the league and could easily have a solid season in a larger role in 2022. His primary competition will come from reserve backup Brandon Facyson, who has made just 13 starts in 4 seasons in the league and has never been more than a mediocre cornerback, including a 2021 season in which he finished 120th among 134 eligible cornerbacks on PFF on 602 snaps (9 starts) with the Raiders. The free agent acquisition is likely to remain a reserve and would likely struggle if forced into extended action.
Safety was a position of weakness for the Colts in 2021, as they had four safeties play at least 376 snaps, but none of them earned even an average grade from PFF. Khari Willis and Julian Blackmon were the Colts’ week one starters at the position, but they were limited to 11 games and 6 games respectively, with Blackmon suffering a torn Achilles in week 6, and neither were particularly effective, even when on the field.
Willis was PFF’s 36th ranked safety on 620 snaps in 2019 and the 17th ranked safety on 842 snaps in 2020 though, so the 2019 4th round pick has obvious bounce back potential, now in his 4th season in the league. Blackmon, meanwhile, was a middling player at best in 14 starts as a 3rd round rookie in 2020 and now his future is clouded by a serious injury, but he still has a good chance to remain the starter and, even coming off of an injury, he could have the upside to take a step forward in his third season in the league.
The Colts added competition at the position this off-season by drafting Nick Cross in the 3rd round and signing veteran Rodney McLeod from the Eagles. Both would be best as backups though, as Cross could be overmatched in a big role in year one, while McLeod is a long-time starter (123 starts in nine seasons since 2013) who has mostly earned average or better grades from PFF, but who is now going into his age 32 season and who is coming off of his lowest graded season from PFF since 2013. The Colts have a good chance to be better at safety by default this season, while their cornerback group should benefit from Gilmore being an upgrade on Xavier Rhodes and a possible bounce back year from Kenny Moore.
The Colts finished last season slightly above average with a 14th ranked special teams DVOA. Kicker Michael Badgely and punter Rigoberto Sanchez were both middling players and their kickoff and punt return teams were both mediocre, but they did have five core special teams players who all finished in the top-50 special teamers on PFF. George Odum and Matthew Adams are gone from that group, signing with the 49ers and Bears respectively this off-season, but EJ Speed, Ashton Dulin, and Zaire Franklin all remain, with Armani Watts being signed from the Chiefs to give them a 4th top-50 player from a year ago. On top of that, the Colts will get kicker Rodrigo Blakenship back from injury, which should be a slight upgrade. They’ll likely continue struggling in the return game, but this should still be a solid special teams unit overall.
The Colts upgraded the quarterback position this off-season, which should help a team that almost made the post-season a year ago, but they also probably won’t get quite the same level of production from Jonathan Taylor, their receiving corps is still very questionable, and their offensive line is continuing to shed talent. Their offense should still be solid and their defense has a good chance to be a solid unit as well, but they don’t stack up with the other top teams in the AFC and, while they should be considered the favorites to win the AFC South, the weakest division in the AFC, they’re unlikely to go on a long playoff run once they get there and if they slip up in the division, it’s going to be tough for them to get a wild card spot. I will have a final prediction at the end of the off-season when all previews are completed.
Final Prediction: It’s concerning that top linebacker Darius Leonard is working back from a serious back injury that will cause him to miss the start of the season, but the Colts still benefit from playing in the easiest division in football, one the should win rather easily.
Prediction: 10-7, 1st in AFC South